by Parth Pandya
“Was it good for you too?”, he called out loudly as he watched his companion for the night disappear into the bathroom, a sheet clumsily covering her bare back. She was aware of the casual light of the day, aware that the folds of her skin had nowhere to hide, mindful that her cellulite stood out to be counted and cognizant that her sagging breasts were on the verge of giving a mindful to gravity for its faults. Hearing his voice, she hastened into the bathroom.
Had it been good for her too? Oh yes, it had. Unshackled by any burden of knowing who he was and by any inconvenience of him knowing her, she had enjoyed the sex for the raw, primal, indulgent pursuit that it was meant to be.
There was no apology in it. She had enjoyed the taste of him, being engulfed in his arms in the dark of the night where perfection was a romp between two misshapen, misaligned and misguided bodies.
He pushed himself back on the bed, propping his back on a pillow that had been pounded out of shape. His phone was lying face down on the side table along with his wallet. He was only slightly hungover, only slightly disoriented. He was not a man of extremes. His deviations from the median were moderate, like his paunch, his thinning hair, or the small cavities that used to visit his teeth with great regularity. The most he would ever stray was indulging in an extra beer when he went out with his office colleagues. And yet, here he was, tired from a night of reckless passion from an unplanned rendezvous with a woman he had not met before.
The evening that led to the night they spent together was a blur now. Among the throes of people that had thronged the karaoke night in the restaurant, two people had clamoured for the same Beatles song. And aided by their raucous friends and some alcohol that had permeated their systems, they sang it together, both equally off key. What started with the singing of ‘Hey Jude’ led to a conversation grounded on flirtation and elevated with a desire to take a chance.
The sound of the shower hummed a minor note in the background. He picked up the phone and ordered some breakfast and coffee. The clothes strewn around the floor assaulted his sense of order and his obsessive compulsive need to maintain it. Bit by bit, he picked them up and folded them. He gently ran his hand over the soft fabric of her dress, noticing a tear at the back, an evidence left by their violent urges. He put it down urgently when the sound of the shower suddenly stopped.
With a firm hand, she wiped away the fog that had held up on the mirror. It was her alright. It wasn’t her bathroom though. Or her room. She put on a bathrobe that she was thankful to find in there and walked out, her heart pounding. He sat on the edge of the bed, dressed in the shirt and trousers he was wearing last night. The jacket had been abandoned, wrapped neatly around the staid chair near the writing desk.
“Good morning,” he said, with a gentle smile.
“Good morning,” she squeaked, her hands ensconced in the pockets of her robe.
“I took the liberty of ordering some breakfast. I hope that’s ok,” he offered.
“Of course. Thank you,” she said, he fingers involuntarily pressing her forehead.
“Aspirin, coffee, water. What works for your hangover?” he asked with a smile.
“All of the above,” she said with a smile, adding, “And running.”
The delicate dance was new to both of them, but the end of the song was approaching and both of them had to now gracefully exit the stage.
There was no sun outside. It had been eclipsed by a black veil of clouds, drowned in a continuous barrage of rain and replaced by flashes of lightning. There was nothing to do and nowhere to go in this weather.
They sat near the window and wordlessly finished their breakfast and sipped their coffee. As he disappeared into the bathroom, she wordlessly put on that which she had shed not longer than eight hours ago and slipped out of the room.
If there was meant to be an interregnum in their story, it was a short lived one. The business travelers all poured out of their rooms, in ironed clothes and formal shoes, slinging laptop bags on their shoulders.
Like two rivulets starting from different nooks and then merging into a big river, unaware of the fate of the other, the two lovers walked into the same conference room. From across the room, a knowing glance was exchanged and a hint of a sinful smile crossed their lips.
The room was a rectangular splendour, seemingly never-ending and punctuated only by a giant oval table that sprouted from the middle of the room. The oval table was ideal to put the two sides against each other. They were sizing each other up, scanning the hitherto unknown faces and the name plates that were placed in front of the seats.
The man in the center got up, straightened his tie and cleared his throat. The room fell silent.
He had the attention of all but two people in the room. She was staring at the little misshapen streaks of grey in his hair. He was searching for her right earlobe, hidden behind the tresses that eclipsed it. They were still somewhere between the sheets, taking in each other, each embrace eclipsing the other. The words around them were drowning out.
“…we are not leaving this hotel till we figure the details of the merger out.”
I am not leaving. We are not leaving. An exchange occurred. An understanding was reached.
Like a hung jury, the deal repeatedly ran into a block. What could have been done in two days took seven. Slowly, gratifyingly, teasingly, the merger was achieved.
And they all drank the night it was done.
And a man walked up to a woman he had known between the sheets in the night and across the negotiating table through the day. It had been a week and yet they were practically strangers.
He leaned over and whispered in her ear, “Would you like to get coffee sometime?”
She looked into his eyes and smiled, a single word floating over the din to him.